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Bernie Williams

Any baseball fan knows how Bernie Williams plays. The superstar New York Yankees center fielder has consistently flashed grace, passion, disciplined focus and a remarkably fluid sense of rhythm in feats both at the plate and in the field that have made him truly the heir in his role to no less than Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

Now music fans will know the same qualities. “The Journey Within,” Williams’ debut album, spotlights his impressive gifts as a guitarist and composer. Due July 15 from renowned GRP Records, it’s a set of shimmering instrumentals • seven original Williams compositions plus versions of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and Brazilian legend Baden Powell’s “Samba Novo.”

The music taps his long love of salsa and blues as well as the classical training he received as a teen at the Escuela Libre de Musica High in his native San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the same time that he was drawing the attention of major league scouts as a local baseball sensation. The album, produced by Loren Harriet, spotlights the guitarist’s keen sense of melody as well as his vibrant lead playing, with sterling support from such star guests as Panamanian salsa giant Ruben Blades, jazz banjo master Bela Fleck and Puerto Rican salsa legend Gilberto Santa Rosa, as well as such top support players as bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Kenny Aronoff. Also making an appearance is Hiram Williams, Bernie’s brother, an accomplished cellist. The colorful cover portrait was painted by famed sports impressionist Leroy Neiman.

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